John Rowan: Review of Beyond Politics

Review of Beyond Politics, an outline of systematic ideology.

From SELF AND SOCIETY, European Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. XVIII No.6, Nov / Dec 1990, by John Rowan.

This is a book about ideologies. An ideology is a way of seeing the world, a more or less coherent philosophy of the way things seem to us to be. Walford is saying here that this is a valid and interesting phenomenon, which deserves more and better study than it has often had.

He adopts the theory of systematic ideology first put forward by Harold Walsby, which says that there are very few ideologies, and that they are permanent. Thus there is no way of eliminating an ideology which we may dislike, and no possibility of humanity evolving beyond the existing set of ideologies.

Ideologies can be given names, depending on which aspects of them we are looking at, and Walford in this book chooses to give political names to the ideologies, because it is in the political field that they become most obvious, and most problematic. The names he chooses are: the non- politicals, the conservatives, the liberals, the socialists, the communists, the anarchists But he also wants to say that the same ideologies appear in other fields, and for these more general names can be given, referring to the ethos of each group. Thus, in the same order, we get: expediency, principle, precision, reform, revolution and repudiation. Then, of course, there is the ideology of Walford himself, which he says very little about, but which is clearly the most critical of all.

Walford gives a survey of the development of ideologies from the earliest times, yet contrives to say very little about religion. This is an oddity in a book which purports to be objective, and once we notice this, we also notice that there is no awareness of anything female or feminine in this book: it is entirely masculine in its categories of thought. And this is most obvious, perhaps, in the way in which he describes prehistoric times, and even prehistoric rituals, without ever mentioning the Great Goddess.

This is a very stimulating and important book, which has much in it which must be read by anyone interested in this subject, but it would be much better if it somehow did more justice to the insights and the researches of feminism.

(A letter has been sent pointing out that the book restricts itself to saying [p. 138] that the appearance of further major ideologies “”seems unlikely.”)

from Ideological Commentary 50, March 1991.